(Click for a Graphic Representation of the System Components Described Below.)
Needs Assessment [Rationale]
When it comes to designing training, the first step (and arguably the most important) is conducting a thorough needs assessment. As the firm responsible for designing an effective program, we will use every means available to us to gather the data that will assist us as we move through the design process. In high school English classes, most of us were taught to always ask the "Newspaper Reporter Questions:" Who, What, When, and Where. As program consultants, we have also learned to ask the most important, "Why?" These questions will provide us with most of the information we need about the participants, the program logistics, and most importantly, the context for the training. Of course, some of the best data will only be available at the training, so for longer trainings, we will often include diagnostic activities early in our training agenda.
SMART Learning Objectives [Outcomes]
Once we have collected useful data, we will develop an overall goal for the training-a general statement of purpose. More than anything else, this overall goal will be used as a benchmark during training delivery. More useful during the design process, is the development of "SMART" learning objectives-Specific, Measurable, Active, Realistic, and Timely. SMART objectives are essentially your training outcomes and represent the affective, behavioral, or cognitive changes that you would like participants to achieve. SMART objectives are very difficult to develop, but are integral to any successful training.
- Affective - Attitudes, Feelings, Beliefs
- Behavioral - Skills, Competencies
- Cognitive - Knowledge, Concepts, Ideas
Probably the most creative and exciting step of the design process is the development of methodology. It is here that a trainer is charged with designing exercises and activities that will stimulate the participants in ways that will lead to the achievement of the training objectives. As we make methodology decisions, we will review your needs assessment data and spend some time thinking about what we know about how people learn. Most folks (adults and children), for example, learn best when they are actively involved in the learning process. Our training will create an experience for your participants (a shared experience, when possible), encourage them react to it, help them to process it together, connect it to the bigger picture, and make sure that the learning can be applied to their real world.
Process & Flow [Format]
Once we've selected the methods that we believe are best suited to your participants, the goals and objectives, and any limitations that you may have concerning time or space, we will review your design again in terms of its "flow." It helps us to think about a design in terms of its opening, body, and closing. If this is a multi-day or multi-session training, we will look at it on two levels-the opening, body, and closing of the macro or overall training, and the same things with the micro of each individual session or day.
In the opening, we are concerned about things like establishing the trainer's relationship to the participants, articulating the goals and objectives of the training, and setting the tone for the experience. Our approach thinks of the body of the training in terms of blocks. These blocks may be tied to particular outcomes or a particular method, or even time (breaks, meals, etc.). The most important thing to remember here, however, is that people learn in different ways, and our job is to create an experience that provides learning stimuli to as many people as possible. At the end of the training, we will reinforce the outcomes and provide another opportunity for participants to anchor their training experience to their real worlds. We are also very interested in bringing appropriate closure to the training and talking about "next steps."
Evaluation & Follow-Up [Measurement]
Finally, of course, is evaluation. In our book, a training is not a training if there is not evaluation. We will develop as a part of your design a means for measuring the participants' progress. The classic model of training evaluation occurs on four levels: 1) Participant Reaction; 2) Learning; 3) New or Changed Behavior; and 4) Measurable Impact of the training on the organization. As we move from level one to level four, the data becomes much more objective and more useful. Of course, the resources necessary to conduct those evaluations also become much greater. At a minimum, we will solicit participant feedback so as to improve future trainings.
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